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Summer Fun!

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With the kids out of school and the weather warming up fast, it’s time to start planning summer activities.  As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter daily life, many families will find themselves staying closer to home than they usually would during the active summer months. Fortunately, there’s lots of summer joy to be had right in your backyard—or on your balcony, in your living room, and around the neighborhood. Summer activities are fun to anticipate together as a family. Still the change from a structured school year to a less structured summer break may be overwhelming for some adopted or guardianship kids who may have been ill-treated or unloved.

To survive the summer, you will want to acknowledge that change may be hard for many kids.  Therefore, you will want to be intentional with setting up a new summer routine for them.  It may be a more laid-back schedule, but this will provide a sense of security and boundaries for your youth. Ask them to help you make the new schedule. Introduce them to your family’s current tradition, ask them about their traditions and create a few new summer traditions.  Here are a few creative suggestions for summer activities:

  • Backyard camping. Your kids may be too small to go camping at a campsite or park, but why not start in the backyard?
  • Plant flowers or vegetables. Use the summer to teach your kids how to plant! Plant flowers or vegetables in your flower bed or in a pot by your home. They can water it every day and watch them bloom!
  • Go to the farmer’s market. You don’t have to travel far to open up your kids’ worlds. Going to your local farmer’s market can be a fun outing as well as a way for showing them all of the different and colorful foods!
  • Berry picking. Now is the time to indulge in the season! From strawberries, blueberries, raspberries to blackberries, there are places in our state that will let you pick them for free or for a small entrance fee. Top of Form
  • Go to a flea market or garage sale. See if the kids are better negotiators than you!
  • Go to a local carnival or county fair. Eat cotton candy, elephant ears, or something unhealthy at least once this summer.
  • Collect rocks and paint them. Then, turn them into pet rocks, garden ornaments, or gifts for family members.
  • Make good use of nearby parks. Go to your local park’s website, and print the schedule of activities and hang it on your refrigerator.
  • Play croquet on the lawn, and try boccie too.
  • Play outside in the rain. Smell the rain on the pavement; splash in puddles; make mud pies.
  • Make fresh lemonade or sun tea. Enjoy it on the front porch with some homemade cookies, or sell it at a lemonade stand.
  • Make ice cream. Turn it into ice cream sandwiches or enjoy it on its own.

Whether you turn this list into your summer bucket list or pick a few of your favorites, you will make great memories. The key is to slow down and enjoy the summer months with your family. Having a plan will help you survive together and it can help you thrive together. Don’t let your kids have all the fun—many of these activities are fun for the whole family to share. So join in!

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Kim Waswick, LBSW

Allegations and Investigations

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Foster care and adoption can create many wonderful and happy times. Still, they can have unwanted outcomes, such as allegations and investigations. Many adoptive and guardianship families have experienced, to some degree, an allegation on their family, resulting in an investigation by your local Human Service Zone. Although most of the allegations are harmless, there can be serious allegations made against your family, such as poor discipline techniques, neglect, poor parenting, and so forth. Allegations can be made by multiple sources, such as foster/adopt/guardianship children, birth family, community members, school personnel, and so on. Many families say it is not if allegations/investigations occur, but when they occur.

Some recommendations to protect you and your family if you find yourselves in the middle of an investigation, or simply wanting to prepare for the instance that you may experience an investigation are below:

1) The most important recommendation is to document anything and everything. Documenting can be very beneficial in the instance that you experience an allegation, resulting in an investigation. Document any concerning behaviors such as aggression, inappropriate comments, and an increase in behaviors. Also, taking pictures of any new bruises, scratches, and cuts and documenting how the injury happened can be beneficial.

2) Another important recommendation is to discuss any concerns, changes, or updates with team members as soon as possible. Team members can include case managers, therapists, doctors, teachers, and any other provider significant to the child and family.

3) Engaging in safety planning so all household members know what to expect in regards to behaviors can also be beneficial. Having a safety plan in place can help prove to investigators that you are working on each possible crisis and have a plan in place when and if it is needed.

4) If you do find yourself in the middle of an investigation, being honest and open is the best route to go. Being cooperative with the investigative agency can help them to better trust you. Answering questions, following the rules, and providing documentation can help.

For more information and a webinar discussing allegations and investigations, please see our post adopt website at http://www.ndpostadopt.org/ under parent resources and webinars.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW

Mental Health

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May officially marks Mental Health Awareness month!  Did you know 1 in 5 adults experience mental health illness each year?  Or suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10-34 years of age?  These are some staggering yet, important statics to consider.  In the helping profession, mental health is a common issue experienced by clients and coworkers.  I can especially confirm this working within the child welfare and adoption system.  Birth parents experience trauma and loss when their children are removed from their care.  Children experience abuse or neglect, which leads to the removal and grief and loss. Case workers who invest everything they have into the families they serve only to be disappointed and discouraged by the outcomes.  Adoptive and guardianship parents struggle with how to support their adopted children in addition to process their feelings about their family’s adoption or guardianship story.  All of these situations can increase the risk of mental health illness.  Don’t get me started on throwing 2020 and COVID 19 into the mix.  In February of 2021, one in four adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression in the past year based on data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, which is a huge increase based on the previous statistic.

It’s hard to imagine only a few centuries ago, so little was understood about mental health.  Those who were unable to maintain in the community were institutionalized and often forgotten.  Others felt forced to suffer internally and alone and do their best to attempt to “maintain.”   We’ve made huge strides in awareness and understanding of mental health, but we still have a lot of work to do.  On April 30th, 2021, President Biden presented a proclamation of National Mental Health Awareness Month in which he states, “My Administration is committed to ensuring that people living with mental health conditions are treated with compassion, respect, and understanding.”  As I mentioned, we still have a lot of work to do but acts like this have me hopeful.  At this stage in my life, I feel if you are a person who has never experienced mental health issues, you are truly a “unicorn”.  People are people! We experience love, loss, and hardship.  With our community’s support and the right services in place and available, we can overcome.  If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.  If you are an adoption or guardianship parent who needs a safe place to talk, reach out to your local coordinator.  We are here for you.  You are not alone.

Additional Resources:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/04/30/a-proclamation-on-national-mental-health-awareness-month-2021/

https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW

The Need for Connection

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Often, I find myself thinking about connection.  I mostly contemplate various ways to explain the importance of the connection between parent and child and different ideas on how to promote healthy connections.  Recently, I stumbled across this interesting article, Connections: 4 Reasons It’s Important, 4 Reasons It’s Difficult, and 4 Ways to Cultivate It, by Alisa Jaffe Holleron.  If you have the chance to read this piece of work, I recommend that you do – the article is a quick read and great refresher on, you named it, connecting with your children.  I will always and forever promote a healthy connection between parent and child and enjoy working with families on finding practical ways to find a few ways to connect.

Parenting can be difficult.  Parenting children who have experienced trauma can add another component that can be especially difficult at times.  Connection for parents is very beneficial.

A connection with other parents who have parented children with a trauma history can have many benefits.  A connection with two (or more) parents who have experienced similarities in their journey can promote comfort and understanding.  A simple head nod or message of, ‘Yes, we’ve been there, too,’ can do wonders with feelings of comfort and being understood.  The connection can also be encouraging.  For example, hearing another’s story may create a hope to continue the tough work of parenting.  These connections can also be inspiring!  Different approaches to handling various scenarios in parenting can be gained when connected to another who has gone through similar situations.  Parents may also find a mentor to help along the way; or find themselves as a mentor to someone who is just starting out on their journey of parenting.

Brene Brown once said, ‘staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.’  Parents, I encourage you to reach out, become vulnerable, and experience connection.  This may help alleviate some of the stressors you’ve encountered within parenting.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Additional Resources:
https://alisajaffeholleron.com/inspiration-for-all-parents/connection-important-to-healthy-development-in-children/

Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is a celebration to honor the mother of the family, motherhood, and maternal bonds. It doesn’t matter the adjective in front of the word “mother.” Whether you’re a birth mother, adoptive mother, foster mother, guardian mother, stepmother, godmother, kinship mother, you deserve to be celebrated on this day. Being a mother does not stop with DNA. A mother encompasses that and so much more.

Mother’s Day was held on May 9th, 2021 of this year, but any day is a great day to appreciate mothers and everything they have done for us.  It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March or May. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908. Jarvis campaigned to have Mother’s Day recognized by the federal government, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards, and tokens of appreciation. Mothers deserve to be thanked, spoiled, and loved on in their own special way; however that looks to them and their family.

 “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” – Sophia Loren

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Kim Waswick, LBSW

Why Use Scripts?

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Sometimes it is hard to find the right words; everything takes time and practice. Speaking from personal experience, finding the right words to write in a blog or the right words to say during a webinar can be difficult. Using key phrases, terms, and scripts with your adoptive and guardianship children will build trust and familiarity.  Scripts are short, verbal cues that parents use to remind a child of the desired behavior. Scripts help to communicate a sense of safety and connectedness in moments of distress or dysregulation.

Why use scripts?

When our kids are upset, it is hard to talk with them. If our child’s brain is overloaded with a perceived threat or big feelings during a meltdown, they cannot process much of anything. Even our attempts to help them calm down go unnoticed. Those big feelings are scary for our kids. Therefore, our task in their moment of dysregulation is to help them re-regulate. They need to trust us to help them adjust their behavior and emotions to a more appropriate state.

Using scripts acts as mental muscle memory to help get our kids back on track without requiring a lot of mental processing power. Suppose you’ve ever witnessed a teacher quiet an entire class with a simple call-and-response. In that case, you are already familiar with the idea. A short, frequently-used phrase like “Use your words” or “Ask, don’t tell” reminds your kids of how they’re supposed to behave without being disciplinary. People continually follow scripts that are acquired through habit, practice, and simple routine.

Dr. Karen Purvis’ book with Lisa Qualls and Emmelie Pickett – offered a few practical examples of scripts.

5 Tips for Creating Scripts

  1. Keep it simple.

Use as few words as possible, no more than five or six. Only address one behavior per script. Make sure you offer a specific and direct behavioral response to challenging behavior. Telling a child in the middle of a tantrum to “Behave!” is useless but telling her, “Use your words” is concrete action. Or you can say, “We need to use our inside voice.”

  1. Practice scripts when everyone is calm.

Remember, when your child is dysregulated, it is not time to start using a new script they’ve not heard before. Identify problem behaviors you want to target, develop your scripts, and introduce them when everyone is calm.

You could try role-playing to practice the scripts, especially if you have a younger kid who likes to engage in imaginary play. Building familiarity with the scripts and the desired behavior can increase everyone’s ease of using the scripts together. If he has heard the script before, he will be better able to remember and process what it means when dysregulated.

  1. Praise good behavior.

When your child behaves correctly, use those positive “cheerleader” type-scripts to acknowledge their good behavior and praise them for it. “Great listening!” or “Thank you for the kind words” are examples of positive reinforcement that helps your child associate the script with the desired behavior. It also builds your child’s confidence that she can act in praise-worthy ways. Dr. Purvis called this “marking the task.”

  1. Watch your tone.

Scripts are designed to remind your child of desired behavior without fussing or nagging. They will be ineffective if you say them through clenched teeth. Make sure you deliver the script in a gentle, non-threatening tone of voice. Remember, use the script as a reminder of positive behavior, not a punishment for negative behavior.

Children read our nonverbal communication, so we need to pay attention to our facial expressions and posture, and our tone of voice is critical when teaching the behaviors we want to see.

  1. Make your scripts age-appropriate.

A script that works great for your five-year-old might feel condescending when said to your tween or teen. You can still expect the same behavior. But as They get older, you should modify the language you use.

Your tone in age-appropriate ways is key with tweens and teens. It would be best to strive for light-hearted reminders early in the interactions that don’t feel like commands. His natural need for independence might feel triggered if he feels that you are talking to him like he is a child.  When you are talking about using a tone, you can use the example, “Do you want to try that again with respect.” which initiates a redo.

Set your child up for success.

The repetition of scripts will create comfort for both the child and those around them. Scripts allow us to predict how others will behave and fulfill our need for a sense of control. When things would get chaotic in our house, my mom would make a “T” with her arms, and we all knew it was time to calm down. My son will use the phrase, “Real talk,” when he needs the conversation to be serious and not goofy. The starting points for script points will take time and practice to develop.  However, to be truly useful, you need to develop your unique scripts for your family.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Kim Waswick, LBSW

Lisa Qualls | One Thankful Mom

Setting Teens Up for Success

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Children who experience trauma can learn at different rates than children who haven’t experienced trauma.  It may be beneficial to start teaching adult skills early to teens to set them up for success in their adult years.  Parenting your Adopted Teenager, from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, gives practical ideas on preparing youth with the future in mind.

Teaching successful skills to teens can be a vital part of transitioning into adulthood.  These skills may include laundry, money management, making appointments, filling prescriptions, and meal prepping/cooking.  The skill can be part of the youth’s weekly routine, so it may easily be carried over as your teen transitions to live independently.  If deemed that there are some tasks your child may not be able to do, look into assistance available in your community.  Your child may be eligible to receive services that include having someone help with independent living skills.  If you don’t know of an agency in your area that provides this type of service, contact your Post Adopt Coordinator near you to help locate this service.

Parents can also promote healthy relationships and activities.  Conversing about who good role models in the community are can make a difference as well.  While in high school, these folks may include a youth’s drama club leader, basketball coach, or youth leader.  Some of these important people may remain mentors, playing a different role in your growing teen’s life.  In contrast, teens may need encouragement for other healthy relationships.  Parents may notice that as their child ages, the relationship between parent and youth changes.  Parents may fill the role of a friend, mentor, or advocate as their child enters adulthood.  Mentors can be a supportive as your child continues to gain more independence, whether it be with moving and setting up a new apartment, dropping by to say hello, or simply being an encouragement to your kiddo.   Promoting healthy activities can be beneficial for teens.  Activities might include football Sundays, baking, physical exercise, or finding a play to attend.

Like mentioned earlier, look into available services.  Suppose your child does receive special education services when they’re 16.  In this case, the school provides a plan for the teen’s future, whether with furthering their education, obtaining employment, or living independently.  Also, look into community resources that may support your teen’s needs, whether it be with helping meet educational, employment, or extracurricular needs.  Vocational Rehab and Freedom Resource Center maybe resources to look into to assist your teen transitioning towards independence.

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Creating Healthy Interactions with Your Children

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Let’s face it, sometimes life gets busy, and we can forget to slow down and be in the moment.  Being present with your children and set aside quality time as a family is essential for healthy growth and development.  Children learn and thrive when they have strong, loving, positive relationships with their parents. Have a fun family activity planned; spending quality time together can create lasting memories while building your relationship.

There are many activities you can do with your children to promote healthy interactions.  Cooking a meal together, reading a book, doing a craft, playing board games, or outdoor activities are great ways to implement quality time, while also having fun.  Growing up, I always cherished time in the kitchen helping out with dinner or baking a delicious treat with my parents.  It was a time to talk about our day, what’s going on in life, and have a good laugh or two.

Since the pandemic hit a little over a year ago, it may be challenging to find new and fun ways to include family time while being at home.  Being stuck at home may have brought more screen time for your children, such as watching TV, being on the computer, or playing on IPad’s with friends.  You may be feeling it’s challenging to interact and engage with your child.  Try Theraplay!  Theraplay is structured play therapy for children that involves parents.  The main goal is to boost attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and provide positive enjoyment.  Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge.  Theraplay can help children who have experienced trauma begin to heal.  Theraplay can also help children with developmental disorders feel more comfortable with social interaction and help families experience happiness and connection. The activities are designed to be simple, fun and interactive, and better yet, can be done at home!

Here are a few activities you can do with your children at home that meet the essential qualities of Theraplay, which fun and relatively easy:

  • Balloon Balance:  Blow up a balloon.  Spread out in an open space and see who can keep their balloon in the air the longest.  Make it more challenging by just using one hand or no hands at all!  This activity can help children focus and work on patience.
  • Hand Stack: Take a seat on the ground or in a chair facing each other.  One partner starts by placing their hand palm side down.  The other partner places one of their hands on top and continues doing this repeatedly, essentially creating a tower.  Go until you cannot reach anymore.  This activity helps children learn to take turns and wait.
  • Up We Go: Partners sit back to back, with their elbows linked, and try to stand up.  Once standing, try to sit back down while elbows are still linked.  This activity helps children practice teamwork as well as communication skills.
  • Balloon Tennis:   Blow up a balloon and use ping pong paddles or racquets made out of paint stir sticks and paper plates. Volley back and forth as long as you can without the balloon touching the ground. This activity enhances the development of motor skills.

During your next family night, try out one of the activities and pay attention to how your children react and how you interact as a whole.  Supporting your children and having healthy interactions through quality time creates healthy relationships.  As they say, children grow up in the blink of an eye, make the time you have a memorable one.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Intern, Greta Stanton

Transforming Challenging Behaviors

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I recently attended a conference session discussing how to manage and change/transform challenging behaviors. The presenter utilized the FLIP technique at a high-needs preschool center.

It is important to note that behaviors will not change right away. With consistency in utilizing the FLIP system, you can begin to see a positive difference. Before beginning with the FLIP technique, it is essential to ensure you have established these three prerequisites: relationship, empathy, and an understanding of ICK, which is negativity or risk factors in a person’s life. Below is the meaning of FLIP and an example statement.

F – Feelings: It is important to acknowledge the child’s behavior and get to the root of the behavior, aka the feelings. Feelings are the root of the behavior.

L – Limits: Limits involve positive limits and expectations for behaviors. Limits are primarily the rules. An example of a limit can be, “we use gentle hands.”

I – Inquires: Inquires help children learn solutions to their problems. Ask the child a question such as, “how can we fix this?”

P – Prompts: Prompts can include helping children with their problem-solving while struggling.

Example Statement: A child is throwing their toys around the room. Here is an example of a FLIP statement: “I see you are throwing your toys. I wonder if you are angry.” (Feelings statement). “Remember that we need to keep our things, ourselves, and others safe” (Limits statement). “What can we do to help you calm down?” (Inquiry statement). “How about we pick up and color?”

The FLIP technique can be completed from start to finish within 1-10 minutes, depending on your experience utilizing FLIP. The more comfortable you are with FLIP, the faster you can complete it.

If you are interested in learning further on the FLIP technique, please see www.MoreFLIPIT.org, where you can find additional resources, tips, and tricks. Listed below is also a handout further explaining the FLIP technique.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW

Resources/References:
https://ndfbsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/FLIP-IT-Handout.pdf

The Nurtured Heart Approach

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The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is geared toward emotionally intense, sensitive, highly unattached children. It presumes that these children, more than others, really need a lot of input from others in their interactions and structure. It also presumes that conventional discipline techniques have taught these kids that it is really easy to get a lot of intense feedback from the people around them by acting up. The NHA seeks to break the kids of the habit of acting up to get energy from adults. Nurtured Heart founder, Howard Glass, provides a helpful analogy that captures the approach. Most of these difficult children strive hard to be successful at video games due to the high level of interaction, feedback, and energy. These games offer predictable rewards for positive behavior and penalize negative behavior.  These games are highly structured and focus on positive incentives more than negative consequences.  The NHA recreates a video game’s basic environment with lots of positive reinforcement and quick, consistent, low-intensity consequences for rule-breaking.  The foundation and core of the NHA is built on the three stands.

  1. Absolutely no means not engaging or focusing on negative behaviors. Parents often take a step back in parenting when there is not a need to interject.  Why interrupt a good thing, right?  When there is an issue, we as parents step in and resolve the issue.  By doing this, we may unintentionally reinforce the negative behaviors as our children have learned, “when I do A, I get B.” At the core of the negative behavior, they may want our attention and have learned how to get it.
  2. Absolutely yes means intentionally focusing on the positive behaviors we observe. Even praising the simplest of things like them putting their plate in the sink when they are finished eating sends them a reward message and gives them the attention they may need.  Bonus!  These positive praise interactions feel a lot better for parents than getting involved when there are negative behaviors, and it’s easy!  Our children do 100 positive things a day compared to 1 negative.  Let’s put our energy into those!
  3. Absolutely clear means we will set clear, simple expectations for our children and respond consistently when these expectations are not met with low energy. The concept of a “reset” can be all you need!  A reset is simply a pause in adults’ engagement following a rule being broken and can be as brief as a few seconds.

By incorporating NHA we are now modeling the reward and consequence system of the videogames our children love.  My final note for parents is don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.  This parenting shift takes time and practice, so be kind to yourself.  Your children will not judge you.  For more information on the NHA, go to https://childrenssuccessfoundation.com/

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW

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